Prompt Day #354: The Grim Reaper plays chess with a Knight in the classic Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal. Modernize with a contemporary game.
Death in Black and White
The Reaper had arrived for the boy’s soul. He entered the home in silence unnoticed. The bottles of alcohol which would be the last thing the boy consumed sat lined up on the kitchen island. The boy, whose name was Hunter English, was accompanied by five others. Their names did not matter to the Reaper. He was here for only one. Just Hunter. Hunter was the youngest of the group which was a pity, but the Reaper had, of course taken younger. Life was black and white. You have it and then you don’t. His job was not to question the why of it. His job was simply to arrive, collect the soul and escort it safely to its final resting place.
The Reaper took a seat in the living room and began his watch. Hunter and his friends had their glasses filled but were not drinking. Instead they played their card game and laughed. The Reaper sat, flipping his hour glass over and over waiting for Hunter to drink himself into a coma and then choke on his own vomit. One thing about his job that The Reaper was thankful for: souls did not have a smell. The odors of and from the body stayed with the body and some were so bad, The Reaper had damaged the soul trying to rip it out too quickly in order to escape the terrible scents. Humans really were animals and in the end all the perfumes and soaps they used couldn’t mask their true essence.
He tapped his scythe on the floor impatient for the boy to get on with it. Did Hunter think he was the only soul that had to be collected tonight? Drink up already! What was so funny about this card game that they were not drinking? He’d seen many a death result from card games but those came from serious poker games and the like and usually resulted in gunshot wounds or brutal beatings. Of course there were the too-drunk college students playing cards too but anymore, they weren’t interested in cards. They were too busy with video games or fucking each other for mundane, old fashioned cards. And The Reaper had never seen them find these games so amusing that they stopped drinking. He decided to observe more closely.
The cards were not the black, white and red he was used to, these cards were black and white only and there were no numbers or symbols but just words. The Reaper leaned over when the laughing started and observed the cards laid on the table in pairs of black and white.
“I learned the hard way that you can’t cheer up a grieving friend with…”
“Giving the tumor a cutesy name”
“The Academy Award for…..goes to ……”
“Silence” and “A mime having a stroke”
“In the seventh circle of Hell, sinners must endure…..for all eternity”
“Some douche with an acoustic guitar”
Currently they were adding white cards to answer the black card on the table that read: This is your captain speaking. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for….” The possible answers offered up by the players so far were: “72 Virgins”, “Survivor’s Guilt”, The screams, the terrible screams”, and “A windmill full of corpses”. The Reaper laughed out loud. A loud, joy-filled laugh he didn’t even know he had inside him. The table of boys froze and spun around in his direction. The Reaper realized that in his pure enjoyment of the game, he had let his guard down and appeared to the group.
“Hello” he said awkwardly. The group stared at him. There was no question who or what he was. The laughter had stopped. “I’ve come for Hunter, but your game is intriguing, may I play while I wait for the alcohol to have its effect on him?”
“Uh” Hunter swallowed deeply. The back of his throat burned with the whiskey his stomach was now furiously sending back up and out in full-on survival mode. “Sure, please sit and play with us. It’s called Cards Against Humanity. Just a warning, it can get a little….off color.”
“There is nothing you can say or do that would surprise me about humanity.” The Reaper said and happily took a seat at the table.
He was wrong. The boys schooled him on depravity and sadistic humor. He loved every minute of it. The Reaper had existed for as long as humanity and never had he felt a greater kinship with them as he had that night. Never had he found so much hope for the future as he had in those boys who could find humor in the worst situations, who could learn to laugh at uncomfortable situations, and who could brush off clichés and prejudices against their beliefs with mirth. These were the humans he wanted on the Earth, these were they type of people who would see to it that humanity lived on in peace.
And worst of all, he loved Hunter. The boy was clever, warped and hilarious. He didn’t need to die. The Reaper wanted to see, if left to live, what the boy would ultimately do with his life. But then, he would be one soul short of his quota. He looked around the table, there was not a single soul here that he wanted to take from this world. Not yet.
“I’ve had more fun tonight with you five than I have ever experienced in my existence.” He said standing up and adjusting his hood. “But I have souls to collect. Hunter, you have earned my respect and the rest of your natural life tonight by accepting that I exist and finding humor with me. Do something with this gift I have given you. Now I must go find someone winning at Monopoly to take in your place.”